Colonialism is often considered to be a scourge, but that tagging it as such would be grossly unfair given the fact that Colonialism helped to restructure many a nation, ranging from its infrastructure, to education. In fact, the Indian Railways which has been tagged as the world’s largest employer, with over 75439 miles of railway lines was first laid down by British Raj in 1887. The fact remains that colonial usurpation of power seemed more like the host nation was getting a raw deal but when you take a closer look at it, which does not seem to be the case, not in retrospect anyway. Our history is replete with vivid examples of invaders colonizing various nations around the globe, starting with US, Australia, India, African nations and the list goes on. While Colonialism on the whole has negative connotations, it cannot be denied that it did have a positive impact on the nations that were colonized. Given this, it is time that we took a closer look at some of the positive and negative impacts of colonialism.
Positive impacts of colonialism
- Education: Colonialism falls into two broad categories, settler colonialism which turned out to be the case with the American colonies and then, there’s exploitation colonialism where the nation was subjugated, enslaved and bled dry, so as to speak. But one of the after effects of colonial take over was the focus and emphasis on education where the locals were taught the queen’s language to help facilitate communication as well as imparted key skills. The fact remains that the system of three Rs or writing, reading and arithmetic was introduced by the settlers and this emphasis on education continued well after the colonial powers had left the host nation. In fact, some of the nations excelling in various fields of education happen to be nations like India and Australia. While India became the jewel in the crown, Australia became a penal colony for the brits.
- Infrastructure: The colonial powers spent vast amounts of money and labor building key essential infrastructure in the colonies. This largess was not aimed at improving the quality of living for the locals but was rather aimed at making life cozy for their compatriots. Whatever be the motivation, the fact is that some of the colonial expansion saw vast roads, train tracks being built to ferry lots of people with the sole purpose of facilitating transportation between different places in the country. Nevertheless, these tracks still remain and some of them in rather good condition and are still used today to ferry people from one point to another.
- Health: With the introduction of western medicine, better sanitation and sanitary habits, the life expectancy of both the colonialists and the natives vastly improved. What this did was to usher in a medical revolution of sorts; now the local populations were able to get treated effectively for whatever it was that they had.
Negative impact of Colonialism
- Slavery: This is what started off colonialism – abject slavery; after the subjugation of a land, the natives were often forcibly taken away on slave ships to be sold as a commodity in different ports or they would be taken back to the mother country for re-education. The change in location did not matter, for as slaves they did not have right to freedom or for that matter, for free, radical thoughts. The colonists often forced them to work on fields and farms with little or no pay under some of the most abject conditions, resulting in the victim often being affected psychologically.
- Local traditions and cultures: The colonists often paid little or no heed to the local customs, traditions; instead they forced the locals to worship only Christianity and to give everything else a miss. Naturally, some of the natives resisted this idea and as a result, they were often tortured for days on end before being executed.
- Natural resources, minerals: Most of the natural resources in the form of timber and other valuable wood was cut down and shipped off to home country. And various precious minerals were dug up from ground and then sent back home, with the rest of the loot. The greed of the colonists’ was so much that they even defaced various idols and temples to get to the treasure.
These are some of the positive and negative impacts of colonialism